William Bradford “Bill” Keith was born on December 20, 1939, and died on October 23, 2015 from cancer.
Bill was a five-string banjoist who made a significant contribution to the stylistic development of the instrument.
In the 1960s, he introduced a variation on the popular “Scruggs style” of banjo playing (an integral element of bluegrass music) which would soon become known as melodic style, or “Keith style.”
Bill was born in Boston, Massachusetts. He attended Amherst College and graduated in 1961.
In 1963 he became a member of Bill Monroe’s Bluegrass Boys.
Bill’s recordings and performances during these nine months with Monroe permanently altered banjo playing, and his style became an important part of the playing styles of many banjoists.
After leaving the Bluegrass Boys, he joined “Jim Kweskin Jug Band” playing plectrum banjo.
Bill began playing the steel guitar and soon after 1968, found himself working together with Ian and Sylvia and Jonathan Edwards.
In the 1970s, Bill recorded for Rounder Records.
Over the years he performed with several other musicians, such as Clarence White and David Grisman in Muleskinner, Tony Trischka, Jim Rooney and Jim Collier.
Today, Bill style is still regarded as modern or progressive in the context of bluegrass banjo playing.
He was inducted into the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame at an awards ceremony in Raleigh, NC on October 1, 2015 and delivered a heartfelt address on that occasion, just three weeks prior to his death.
Bill Keith died of cancer on October 23, 2015 at the age of 75.